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July 29, 2014
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President Obama on Tuesday announced new U.S. sanctions on Russia, in response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 earlier this month in an area of Ukraine held by Russian-backed rebels. Obama said the sanctions target "key sectors of the Russian economy: energy, arms, and finance."

Some details from The New York Times:

The latest American actions took aim at more Russian banks and a large defense firm, but they also went further than past moves by blocking future technology sales to Russia's lucrative oil industry in an effort to inhibit its ability to develop future resources. [The New York Times]

Obama's move came shortly after the European Union imposed its own sanctions on Russia, which is suspected of arming the rebels with the sophisticated surface-to-air missile that brought down the airliner. The EU, which has deep economic ties with Russia, had long balked at antagonizing the government of President Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine, but was compelled to ramp up the pressure after the deaths of dozens of European citizens and the fact that Russia increased its support to Ukraine's rebels in the wake of the attack.

Indeed, the EU's sanctions went beyond what the U.S. had already imposed, forcing the White House to play a bit of catch-up. Ryu Spaeth

8:40 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live analyzed President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet picks in its cold open sketch featuring Beck Bennett as CNN's Jake Tapper speaking with Kate McKinnon's Kellyanne Conway. "Are these bad picks?" Tapper asks after running through a few real-life nominations. "No, Jake, they are not bad," Conway answers. "They are alt-good."

Midway through the interview, Tapper breaks the news that Trump has selected his head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a high school science teacher from New Mexico named Walter White. "I know the DEA better than anyone," promises Bryan Cranston, reprising his Breaking Bad role, "inside and out." White is a big fan of Trump's border wall plan, too — "nothing comes in from Mexico, meaning a lot less competition for the rest of us."

Watch the full skit below. Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump's rejection of the CIA's conclusion that Russia attempted to manipulate U.S. elections on his behalf has led to an unusually rocky relationship between the incoming administration and the intelligence establishment, which Trump's team has dismissed as "the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."

"Given [Trump's] proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin," said Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, "this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community."

Trump has also reportedly taken fewer national security briefings than is typical for this point in the transition, though aide Kellyanne Conway says he is "certainly availing himself of the information that is provided to him from a number of sources" and will be amply prepared to take office. Bonnie Kristian

8:08 a.m. ET
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Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy won his state's runoff Senate election Saturday, cementing the Republican Party's 52-seat Senate majority. Democrats hoped challenger Foster Campbell would pull off an upset victory, with many donating to his campaign as one last potential bright spot after a disappointing election season that saw widespread GOP gains at the state and federal level.

As of 9:30 p.m. local time, Kennedy held a strong lead of nearly two-thirds of the vote; President-elect Donald Trump also won the state, taking nearly a 20-point margin over Hillary Clinton. Trump traveled to Louisiana to campaign for Kennedy earlier this week, calling the candidate a "good guy" whose win Vice President-elect Mike Pence said would be an "exclamation point" on a great election. Bonnie Kristian

December 10, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump is expected to tap ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, with whom Trump met twice this week, for secretary of state. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be deputy secretary of state, a source told NBC News.

Tillerson has been president of ExxonMobil for 12 years after spending his entire career at the company, during which time he developed what The Wall Street Journal calls "close ties" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson has a reputation as a strong supporter of free trade, a potential source of conflict with Trump, but less is known of his foreign policy perspective beyond his critique of sanctions as ineffective.

The pick has not been confirmed by the Trump camp. Bonnie Kristian

December 10, 2016
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday he hopes Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime will take the high road as rebel control of Aleppo, Syria, continues to crumble.

"Russia and Assad have a moment where they are in a dominant position to show a little grace," he said after meeting in Paris with officials representing the countries that back Syrian opposition forces. "I believe there could be a way forward but it depends on big, magnanimous choices from Russia." American diplomats are also meeting with Russia on Saturday in Geneva to negotiate rebel fighters' exit from Aleppo and, Kerry emphasized, safe passage for civilians.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who was in Paris with Kerry, insisted the loss of Aleppo "will not change the fundamentals of the conflict," for which there "can be no military solution." "We must keep pushing for a return to a political process with the credibility necessary for all parties to commit to an end to all the fighting," Johnson added. Bonnie Kristian

December 10, 2016
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At least 50 people were killed and dozens more wounded by a suicide bomber in Yemen Saturday morning. The attack took place on a Yemeni army base in Aden where troops had lined up to collect their paychecks, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing several hours after the incident in a statement online.

Other extremist groups including al Qaeda are also active in the region and have taken responsibility for similar strikes in the past. For more on Yemen's civil war, including Saudi Arabian and American involvement, see this analysis from The Week's Michael Brendan Dougherty. Bonnie Kristian

December 10, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump's transition team sent a 74-question memo to managers within the Department of Energy (DOE) this week requesting, among other information, a list of all department employees and contractors who attended climate change policy conferences in recent years.

Viewed by Reuters on Friday, the document has reportedly caused alarm within the agency. "This feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list," said one Department of Energy employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. "When Donald Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp it apparently was just to make room for witch hunts and it's starting here at the DOE." Other information the memo requested includes emails pertaining to the climate change events and all publications penned by employees at the DOE's 17 national labs over the last three years.

Previous presidential teams have asked policy questions of agencies during their transitions, The New York Times reports, but this level of detail and the demand for specific names may be unprecedented. Still, a "lot of these questions make perfect sense," said Jonathan Levy, a former Obama deputy chief of staff for the DOE. "They have to get their heads around what responsibilities they will have and don't have. The thing that's unsettling are the questions that appear to be targeting personnel for doing public service."

It is not known whether a similar questionnaire has been sent to other agencies. The full list of 74 questions is available here. Bonnie Kristian

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